It just got easier for the FBI to hack devices anywhere in the world—unless U.S. Congress acts to stop it

Nathan here. I’m writing to update you on the latest efforts to undermine digital security coming out of Washington D.C.

So far, the fight has largely focused on preventing the government from undermining encryption with mandatory backdoors. Thanks to support from committed individuals like you, we’re moving decision-makers toward a shared understanding that uncompromised encryption is critical to maintaining our security online.

Now the focus is shifting to the question of government hacking. TODAY, the U.S. Supreme Court let the FBI make a sweeping change to the rules on warrants for digital searches that will expand hacking operations.

The Supreme Court approved this change. It will become permanent unless Congress acts before the rule goes into effect in seven months.

When the FBI wants to open a safe, they go to a judge and get a warrant in the jurisdiction where the safe resides. When the FBI wants to get into a computer, they do the same thing. Go to a judge where the computer resides. It’s a bit more complicated when the FBI wants to get to information stored digitally. In the past, the FBI had to figure out the location of the device or data storage facility it wanted to hack and get a warrant from a judge in that jurisdiction. But now, the FBI is changing the rules to allow judges to authorize remote searches outside their jurisdiction. That means the FBI could go to the most favorable judge anywhere in the country to authorize every single hack. This rule could allow the FBI to hack any computer anywhere in the world. It would also mean that a single warrant could allow the FBI to hack thousands of users.

The change is far too broad and provides inadequate protections against overreach by law enforcement. But unless Congress acts to reverse it before December, the new rule will become the law of the land. We’re working with our champions and allies to fight this here in D.C., but in the meantime, there are things you can do to help:

  1. Share our press release or this blog post on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the FBI’s expanding global power to access data through device hacking.
  2. Encryption raises the cost of surveillance. Use these simple guides from Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline to set up encrypted email on your PC or Mac. Using PGP won’t necessarily stop FBI hacking, but it’s a good first step to ensuring your data stays safe.
  3. Visit savecrypto.org where you can sign the petition, tweet, or submit a comment to the White House. It has been more than six months since 100,000 of you asked U.S. President Obama to stand up for strong digital security, and he has yet to respond. Let’s keep up the pressure.